"The sales activity for 2007 was a record year thatsignificantly outpaced all previous years," Darrell Betts, seniorvice president in Houston for Grubb & Ellis Co., tellsGlobeSt.com. "Houston is one of the last places in the countrywhere you can buy at below-replacement costs and the price per sfhas a tremendous amount of growth opportunities."

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Betts and other top local executives are headlining thismorning's forecast meeting in River Oaks Country Club at 1600 RiverOaks Blvd. An estimated 450 brokers, investors and developers areexpected to attend the Santa Ana, CA-based brokerage firm's annualevent.

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Betts says Houston's emergence as "truly an international city"has catapulted it onto radar screens of investors worldwide. Hecredits direct flights to Dubai and soon to Moscow with fueling newinterest from afar. The three flights per week to Dubai will go todaily direct flights in February and Moscow goes live in March.

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"We are truly becoming a global market and global economy. And,Houston is at the forefront," says Betts, whose Southwestinvestment sales partner is Scot Farber in Dallas. As the dollarloses value, he says many investors from countries with strongercurrencies are planning to invest in Houston.

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Grubb & Ellis research shows CBD cap rates for office salesnudged 6.5% while suburban buildings hit 7% last year. The1.3-million-sf Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St.went for $350million or $300 per sf. The second highest check waswritten for the 844,207-sf 1201 Louisiana at$125 million or $148 per sf. And Bank One Office Center at 910Travis St. drew $184 per sf, but its smaller size of 747,380 sfworked out to $100.5 million at the closing table.

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With absorption high and rents rising, the metro's stars arealigned after a slower 2006 on the sales front. Other local prosalso have confirmed that Houston this year clearly is on pace tooutperform most other US metros.

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Among the deals to watch this quarter will be the 1.5-million-sfWilliams Tower at 2800 Post Oak Blvd. Ken Page with Cushman &Wakefield of Texas Inc.'s Houston office brought the trophy tomarket in December. "The market expects to have a buyer selected infirst quarter 2008," Betts says.

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Although it's too early to say what will happen, Betts says therest of the US might slow down, but Houston isn't likely to falter."People expect our volume not to slow down," he says.

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